Actor John Travolta, whose son died recently in a seizure, recently admitted in court that his son had autism.
This is noteworthy, since Travolta is a leading Scientologist (we can blame the reprehensible movie “Battlefield Earth” on Travolta’s devotion to L. Ron Hubbard’s teachings). Here’s the money quote in the article linked above:
His reference to autism was all the more remarkable because of Travolta’s belief in Scientology, a religion considered by many to be a cult. One of the religion’s tenets is that mental illness is psychosomatic and can only be realistically treated through spiritual healing. Scientology does not recognise autism as a real affliction and shuns psychiatry as a “pseudo-science”, putting Travolta’s admission yesterday at odds with a church in which he is a leading figure.
The subject came up in court because Travolta is testifying for the prosecution in a case against two men suspected of blackmailing the actor. The men allegedly threatened to go public with a waiver releasing paramedics from liability because, the story goes, Travolta declined to have his son sent to a local hospital and preferred to send him to Florida instead.
None of this has yet been proven in court, so the contents of the waiver and the alleged blackmail need to held very tentatively right now. That said, it does touch on a real issue relating to Scientology – and other cults that have wacky notions about modern medicine (Jehovah’s Witnesses and their blood transfusions, Word-Faith teachers and their notion that medicine can be a “negative confession”, etc.). The fact is that theology has real physical consequences, and bad theology can kill people. Travolta belongs to a religion that essentially denies the reality of mental illness; and while blackmail can never be justified, it’s only natural and fair that questions be raised about the treatment of his late son in such a spiritual environment.
This one will be interesting to watch…